New 5 & Dime chefs bring flavor of West Africa

Published 10:16 am Monday, June 24, 2024

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Next week, Selma residents will have the opportunity to experience the flavor of West Africa as the 5 & Dime welcomes chefs Halima Olubukola Salazar and Dria Price of Gimbia’s Kitchen.

The two, who run the Mississippi-based company that introduces southerners to the origins of their food in Western Africa, will be coming to Selma this week to offer a unique culinary experience that will feature many herbs and ingredients that are used in West African cooking. Those same ingredients are also the foundation for Southern cooking as well.

One example of that is jollof, a West African rice dish that has similarities with jambalaya.

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“And it’s such a strange thing that people have never had jollof before because it’s such a popular dish,” Salazar said. “And so we thought, we need to create a forum where we can give people more access to West African food. In the process of doing that, they can make a connection between how West African food became southern food.”

Salazar, a farmer and chef, was raised in Nigeria and came to the United States to go to college. Upon arriving here, she had a hard time adjusting to the food in America but soon began delving into southern cooking, where she found some familiar tastes in foods like greens and black-eyed peas and felt traces of her ancestors in the food here. In 2013, she returned home and attended the chef’s academy in Abuja, Nigeria, where she learned how to cook West African cuisine with an emphasis on Nigerian foods.

Price is the pastry chef of Gimbia’s Kitchen. She grew up surrounded by amazing cooks who knew the importance of creating meals that were not only delicious but also nutritious. Her style of cooking focuses on recreating childhood favorites and exploring the methods behind family recipes. 

Price and Salazar are best friends and business partners, and they co-own Gimbia’s Kitchen and the herbal tea company Justevia. The series that Gimbia’s Kitchen is currently focused on is called “Journey from Home.” which showcases West African Cuisine and helps people follow the journey from African seeds to the southern plate. 

For lunch on Monday through Thursday, Salazar and Price will be offering dishes that will introduce people to the flavors of West Africa. The menus planned for next week include smothered chicken with naija fried rice,apple plantain pie and spiced vanilla ice cream on Monday, smoked salmon sourdough bagels with fresh microgreens and capers with almond cake and coffee ice cream on Tuesday, fresh pitas with Yaji spiced chicken, tabouli, pound cake and salted pistachio caramel ice cream on Wednesday and shrimp and smoked gouda grits, brown sugar puff puff and banana ice cream.

The lunches will be building toward a special seven-course dinner on Friday night, where the two will create an intimate dining experience that is filled with West African dishes in each course.

“Especially with the dinner that’s happening on Friday, that’s like the culmination of everything we’re doing this week,” Price said. “So the lunches that we have at Simon Dime, they kind of tiptoe you into West African food.”

During the Friday dinner, they will also take some time to interact with the guests and talk about these dishes.

“This specific dinner is specifically intimate because we actually were able to bring some dry ingredients from home,” Salazar said. “Even the bowls and the plates that we’re using are bowls and dishes that were made from a pottery farm in Nigeria from the soil where we actually visited. And so it’s very intimate, it’s very conversational. Every course that we introduce, either me or Dia gets to talk about it and talk about the history of it. And then we also get to talk about how our guests feel and what it reminds them of — maybe their grandmother or somebody in their ancestry cooked or even maybe vaguely remembering them talking about.”

Price said they look forward to sharing their cooking with new people. When they first met, they would cook together and then realize that what the other one was cooking looked familiar. 

“I’d say, you know, I have a dish that’s kind of like that, but we may add this or cook it a little differently,” Price said. “It’s like sharing a secret between two best friends with the whole world.”

There are only 20 tickets remaining for the dinner on Friday. Tickets for the seven-course meal are $150. The menu includes sourdough and mushroom dip, pepper soup and masa, yam croquette, watermelon feta salad, jollof rice and plantain, peanut soup with lamb and plantain pie.

The daily meals will be $25 at the 5 & Dime. For more information, log on to the 5 & Dime’s Facebook page